Daniel 7:9-10, “…the Ancient of Days took His seat…A stream of fire issued and came out before Him…”

Revelation 22:1, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.”

I’ve always been intrigued by the connection between these two passages. Throughout the book of Revelation, John, under the inspiration of the Spirit, draws heavily on imagery found in Daniel, so it is very likely that the throne of the Ancient of Days–the throne to which the Son of Man approaches and receives his authority–was in John’s mind as he wrote of the “throne of God and of the Lamb.” A consideration that makes the intended connection between these two thrones even more clear in my mind is that both have rivers pouring out from them. However, its in the difference between those two rivers that I’m interested.

In Daniel, we read that a “stream of fire” issues from before the throne of the Ancient of Days. Fire, in this instance, seems to represent the holiness and purity of the divine judge who will destroy every power that opposes His rule (see 7:11).

However, in John’s vision of the final state of creation, when God and/in the Lamb sits enthroned over the harmonized universe, we see something very interesting. Here too a stream issues from the throne of God, and yet now–rather than an outpouring of incinerating fires–we see the “river of the water of life, bright as crystal.”

What has happened? Why does John seem to imply that the fire of God’s holiness has become a river of life? I would argue that John’s point is not that anything has changed with God, but rather that the change has been wrought in His people, and therefore, in creation at large.

Through the wrath-absorbing work of the slain and risen Lamb (who is–as the Lamb–now the heart of the beatific vision, the emblems of His suffering enthroned eternally within the radiance of the glory of God), the opposition of the people of God to their Maker has been overcome and fully dealt with; the enmity between God and humanity has been reconciled; and the elect have been drawn into harmony with the beauty of God’s name at the most profound level of their being. In other words, in Christ, the people of God have been aligned with the character of God so that the consuming fire of His holiness IS to them the river of the water of life (Indeed, this water pouring from the throne of the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit, John 7:38-39).

The holiness (or, according to Jonathon Edwards, “Beauty” or “Love”) of God is a destroying river of fire to those whose nature is opposed to Him. But, for those who are reconciled to Him through the work and in the person of the crucified and risen Son, that same holiness IS life and light and joy.

The Triune God of scripture is a consuming fire of God-treasuring holiness. Consequently, proximity to Him is torment and agony for His enemies. But, for those enemies who have been made His friends by feasting on His redemptive revelation in Jesus Christ, that same God-treasuring holiness becomes to them an ocean of of grace and river of life.

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